Gender Differences in the Initiation of Negotiation: Does the Gender of the Negotiation Counterpart Matter?

Women show a significantly lower propensity to initiate negotiations for higher compensation than men, which is amplified when their negotiation counterpart is female.


All over the world, women earn less than men. Even if we control for job and worker characteristics, the gender wage gap persists. One explanation for this difference is that men may be more willing and eager than women to initiate negotiations for higher salaries. This study confirms previous findings and analyzes the effect of a negotiating partner’s gender on women’s propensity to initiate salary negotiations.


This study tested whether women were likely to initiate a negotiation for additional compensation. Participants were asked to complete a word puzzle task and were informed that they would receive anywhere between 30 to 100 Swedish crona, but that the amount was negotiable. After completing the task, participants were given the minimum compensation of 30 Swedish krona, regardless of their performance.

  • Men were significantly more likely to initiate a negotiation for more compensation. On average, 42% of male students started a negotiation for higher compensation, whereas only 28% of female students did.
  • Men were twice as likely as women to initiate a negotiation if their counterpart was female -- 46% of male students, but only 23% of female students asked for a higher compensation when facing a female counterpart.
  • On the contrary, there was no significant difference between men and women in the propensity to initiate a compensation negotiation when their counterpart was male.

In sum, the authors confirmed findings of previous studies showing that men have a higher propensity to initiate compensation negotiations. This effect seemed to be amplified when men and women faced a female counterpart. These results suggest that the gender of the negotiation counterpart should be taken into consideration when exploring gender differences in initiating negotiations as a possible explanation for the gender wage gap.


The authors used an experimental set up to test whether or not women are less likely to initiate salary negotiations. They asked 202 students (106 men and 96 women) that were recruited from three different university locations, to solve a word puzzle in a certain amount of time. Afterwards, students were offered 30 Swedish krona (SEK) for their performance – no matter how well or poorly they did on the word puzzle. Students were told that they could ask for more money if they were not satisfied with the compensation offered. To test whether the gender of the negotiation counterpart had any effect on a student’s propensity to initiate such a negotiation, students were randomly assigned to either a female or a male experimenter.

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